Dear Savvy Auntie,

My nephew is my favorite little guy. We live 500 miles apart but when we are together we are best pals.

Recently, my brother became a single dad and I have had to keep my nephew for weeks at a time since my brother is in the military. My nephew is three-years-old and I have never had to discipline him before because one of his parents would handle that. Now, I am keeping him for extended periods of time, just the two of us. He is having trouble adjusting. He doesn't listen to me and is having a hard time sleeping.

Any opinions or suggestions are welcomed and appreciated. Thanks!

Disciplined Auntie

Dear Disciplined Auntie,

This is a difficult transition for your nephew and for you. He must miss his father and not have an understanding of when he is coming back.

I suggest you make a weekly calendar with a picture for each day cut out of magazines that depicts what is happening everyday that pertains to him. It can be a photo of what is for dinner, where he is going (park, school, playground). Have him put a mark at the end of the day and talk to him about tomorrow's plan. Save these weekly pages...he may want to review them and they will be a great memento for him to review with his dad when he comes home.

I suggest you begin a sleep ritual, doing the same routine every night.  As my grandkids say: "Bath, Books, Bed." Turn off all TV, devices, telephone, etc., and dim the lights.

Discipline should begin with listing the dos and don'ts - reviewed and posted on the fridge. When he breaks a rule, try to give him a consequence that is close in kind. Commend him for good behavior: "You were a good listener," "Good for you waiting patiently," etc.

When he acts up, have him sit down where he can see you, saying it is time to cool down and that he can get up when he is steady. If he quickly jumps up, ask him if he is steady. He probably won't be, so tell him again to sit down until he is steady and can play nicely.

Remember he has only been around for about 36 months, he is not in his own home, and he needs to get used to you. I suggest you read an early development book so your expectations are realistic and remember how lucky he is to have you as his Auntie.

Good luck,
Natalie Robinson Garfield

Photo: justtscott ,

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